Team of the week
Clearwater Central Catholic isn’t just winning these days, it is making it look easy.
Led by an airtight defense and enough offense to make it all pay off, the Marauders (16-3) are Pinellas County’s winningest team, and riding an eight-match winning streak.
That’s not the longest current streak in the county — that belongs to East Lake at 13 — but during the eight matches, CCC hasn’t dropped a game.
“I think we’ve been playing well as of lately,” said first-year coach Stephen Shepherd. “I think it’s a little bit of maturing what is rather a young team.”
The Marauders have leaned on juniors Megan Miller, Morgan O’Brien and Kayln Baird, and a strong sophomore class is getting better and better.
“I think (the juniors) are bringing the other girls up to that same level, they are starting to do that.”
In the 21 games of their current winning streak, the Marauders have allowed only 20 or more points six times. And lest one thinks CCC is a beneficiary of an easy schedule, the Marauders already have wins over Lakewood in the preseason, Tarpon Springs and Northeast.
But the one school they will have to eventually beat? District foe and former national No. 1 Berkeley Prep, which handed CCC a decisive early-season loss.
“That’s quite a team to deal with,” Shepherd said. “But that’s what we’re working towards.”
East Lake and Clearwater will compete in this weekend’s prestigious Tampa Bay Invitational. The Eagles will go in as one of the favorites — and could get a crack at Berkeley Prep — while the Tornadoes will be the underdog.
Clearwater coach Kara Betourne says the Eagles are seeded No. 2 behind Berkeley, while her team is 11th out of 16. That’s fine with Betourne, who said her squad was No. 15 in a 16-team tournament in Gainesville and finished fifth. “We played well there,” she said. “We’re looking to do the same thing this weekend.”
Nikki O’Rourke made the all-tournament team in Gainesville, but hurt her ankle against East Lake the following week. She is only now rounding into form.
“She’s looking good,” Betourne said. “Nikki was a little rusty at East Lake (in her return last week against the Eagles), but I don’t think it was her fault. We had some (passing) issues. In practice, she has been outstanding.”
PHU digging pink
The Hurricanes will travel to Orlando to play in the Dig Pink Invitational this week. PHU will compete in the premier bracket of the 64-team tournament, where last year it was second.
“This is a huge weekend for us,” said coach Tara Kuk. “Every team we play will be a tough a team, and our first three matches are best of three, so there’s not a lot of time to feel things out.”
PHU could use a challenge, having won its past nine games over three matches by an average score of 25-11.
Flying to Nebraska
High-flying PHU senior Leah McNary has orally committed to Creighton in Omaha, Neb., Kuk said.
McNary, a 5-foot-10 middle with some of the most impressive hops in the county, leads the Hurricanes with 75 kills and 29 blocks. Last season, she led the county with 158 blocks.
PCAC semifinals set
In what was expected to be the only bit of drama in the completion of pool play in the Pinellas County Athletic Conference tournament, Lakewood beat Countryside 25-22, 28-26, 22-25, 18-25, 15-11 Wednesday night to advance to the semifinals on Oct. 29.
Lakewood won one of the four pools. The other pool winners were East Lake, PHU and Clearwater, who all swept both matches they played. All four teams will be paired in the semifinals in two weeks, with the PCAC championship immediately following.
Hitting a snag
Last week’s scheduled game between Clearwater and Palm Harbor University had to be postponed, and may not be rescheduled. Betourne said PHU had to make up a district game with North Port, and told the Tornadoes the day before it wouldn’t be able to play the scheduled contest.
Because PHU plays three games a week the rest of the season right up to districts, it seems unlikely there will be room to play the game.
“We really hope we can get it rescheduled,” Betourne said. “We’d like to play that game, obviously.”
Caleb Sibert has Calvary Christian — led by freshman Megan Kovach — off to a 10-6 start, but he’s still hoping for a marquee win.
Last year when he coached at Lakeside, he beat his current team twice. Going up against his former team this year, he led Calvary Christian to the victory.
“That was probably our biggest game, beating Lakeside, because I was there last year,” he said.
The teams meet again tonight.